Illumination Diptych (Ottoman Waqf)

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Illumination Diptych (Ottoman Waqf)

England, London, 2010
Gold leaf, tea, pomegranate, Dupont Chinese ink and Offset x-ray film print on paper
Each: 64 × 44 1/2 in. (162.56 × 113.03 cm) Overall: 64 × 89 in. (162.56 × 226.06 cm)
Gift of Edge of Arabia (M.2010.159a-b)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

In his groundbreaking Illumination series, to which this pair of startling images belongs, Ahmed Mater draws inspiration from the Islamic arts of the book, most notably manuscripts of the Qur’an, whose pages were decorated with illuminated borders, chapter headings, and verse markers. He even includes the word waqf, a notation often found in manuscripts of the Qur’an, which in legal terms designates a charitable donation. Mater has radically expanded the scale of his illuminations, traditionally a small-scale and intimate art form, creating instead a different sense of intimacy by using his pages to frame or incorporate an X-ray of a human body. After all, what could be more intimate and personal than literally to see inside another individual? This is most eloquently expressed in his great diptychs, as here, in which a traditional type of richly illuminated double-page composition frames two X-rays set face-to-face; the skeletal images suggest an elemental form of humanity, stripped of the skin, hair, eyes, and clothes that differentiate as well as separate us. Born in Abha, Saudi Arabia, Mater is both an artist and a practicing physician. Working in photography, calligraphy, painting, installation, performance, and video, he is one of the leaders of a new generation of artists in Saudi Arabia.


  • Booth-Clibborn, Edward, ed. Ahmed Mater. London: Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2010.
  • Komaroff, Linda. Gift Tradition in Islamic Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2012.
  • Komaroff, Linda. Gifts of the Sultan: the Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2011.